Can lactation spaces at workplace be the game changer?

As the world marks World Breastfeeding Week every first week of August, many breastfeeding mothers in Burundi still face a challenge of breastfeeding their new borns after resuming their work.

The World Health Organization (WHO) called on nations to provide facilities of breastfeeding for working women.

Burundi’s law requires employers to provide an hour break for mothers to breastfeed their babies, but analysts say that it is almost impossible for the mothers to break off for just one hour and be back on time for work after lactating the babies.

β€œThere is a need for the government to introduce lactating spaces at work so as it can be much easier for mothers to breastfeed the young ones and resume work,” one of the doctors in Bujumbura said.

Breastfeeding contributes to the reduce of infant mortality rate by 20 percent according to the World Health Organization.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) indicated that early initiation of exclusive breastfeeding can reduce neonatal mortality at 20%.

Globally, only 20% of countries require employers to provide employees with paid breaks and facilities for breastfeeding or expressing milk.

“A working woman must benefit from the basic provisions allowing her to breastfeed her child at her workplace. Breastfeeding is one of the most effective means of preserving health and ensuring the survival of the child,” a statement reads from WHO in Burundi.

According to Dr Landry Rukundo, exclusive breastfeeding contributes to the protection of the infant against illnesses and diseases while ensuring his mental health.

“Exclusive breastfeeding provides optimal nutrition for a child. The milk have the right amount of nutrients. The infant benefits from his mother’s antibodies that help him fight off viruses and bacteria. It reduces the infant’s risk for many illnesses and diseases. It makes the infant smart and get close to his mother,” said Dr. Rukundo.

Article 272 Burundi’s 2020 labor code, “working women have right to a paid break of an hour for new breastfeeding mothers to breastfeed their babies until the baby is six months of age (06).”

Breastfeeding mothers are entitled to an additional breastfeeding break on a normal working day break. Theses standard break times are paid and considered as worked time according to the Burundi labor law.

The provision is included in Burundi’s labor code both for public and private sectors, despite employers are yet to provide their employees with adequate lactation spaces to express milk in close proximity with the work area.

“At my working place we do respect those breastfeeding break time. Breastfeeding employees show up at 9:00 am and leave the office around 3:00pm. They do not come back at work because by the time they arrive home, others are leaving their offices.” Said Jean Bizimana, one of the private sector workers in Kajaga.

Dr Rukundo, deplores that mothers are forced to milk themselves in feeding bottles for a later consumption for their new borns.

UNICEF-Burundi in 2020 stated that out of 10 infants 8 are exclusively breastfed in Burundi.

The 2023 breastfeeding week goes under the theme “Let’s make breastfeeding and work, work”. World Health Organization recommends an exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and incites nations to establish means for facilitating her to breastfeed her child at a place of work.

More than half a billion working women are not given essential maternity protections in national laws

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